Minnesota focuses on better starts

The Gophers have already allowed 13 first-period goals this season.

Forwards Brook Garzone and Bethany Brausen celebrate a goal at the Women's Hockey game at Ridder Arena on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013.

Daily File Photo, Juliet Farmer

Forwards Brook Garzone and Bethany Brausen celebrate a goal at the Women’s Hockey game at Ridder Arena on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013.

Betsy Helfand

The Gophers peppered Yale with 26 first-period shots Saturday and then came out and took 25 shots in the first period the next day.

In both games, the team took 3-0 leads into the first intermission.

The first period has been a big focus for the Gophers lately. The team gave up three first-period goals in its 3-2 loss to North Dakota on Nov. 17, and head coach Brad Frost said that sunk his team.

Minnesota has given up 13 first-period goals so far this season — three more than it gave up all of last season.

In the 2011-12 season, the team gave up only 16 first-period goals. Both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 teams won the national championship.

“[I] just don’t like how we’ve been starting as much as the successful teams that we’ve had in the past,” Frost said.

Frost said his team isn’t comparing itself to past teams but is looking back to see what those teams did successfully.

“That was the most glaring number,” he said of the first-period goals.

The Gophers graduated All-America goaltender Noora Räty after last season. Sophomore Amanda Leveille has since taken over in the crease.

This is just Leveille’s first season in net, but she’s been dependable. And Frost said the increase in first-period goals isn’t a personnel issue.

“I think it has more to do with maybe the mentality we’ve been going into hockey games with,” Frost said. “I think we just need to be better, and our players know that.”

Senior forward Bethany Brausen, the team’s captain, said the coaches have asked players if they’ve been preparing differently before games.

“I tell them I think everyone on this team is too superstitious not to prepare in the exact same way every single game,” Brausen said.

Junior Jordyn Burns said the team’s problem is starting quickly — a problem a lot of teams have.

If teams are going to be flat at any point in a game, Brausen said, it would more than likely be in the first period.

“I think the true success of a team is when you can recognize that you are struggling … and turn it around, [which] we’ve done many, many times,” Brausen said.

As a whole, Brausen said she doesn’t think the first period has been “a huge struggle” for the team.

The Gophers are 15-1-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation.

“When you are having a lot of success, you need to be able to look at the more detailed things,” Brausen said.

In practice, coaches continuously bring up the importance of a strong first period.

“You just keep bringing it up until the players are sick and tired of hearing about it,” Frost said. “We tell them, ‘You’re sick of hearing about it? Then go do something about it so we don’t have to talk about it anymore.

Burns said the message is repetitive.

“I know a lot of people are like, ‘Oh God, not again,” she said.

That repetition seems to have gotten through to the team — at least last weekend.

“It’s something we definitely need to work on, and I think we have,” Burns said. “In this last [series], we kind of showed that we [could] play a full 60 minutes.”